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End of COVID restrictions doesn’t end disabled people’s right to health

Wednesday, August 16, 2023   Posted in: Signatory Notice Board By: Administrator With tags: human rights, health, disabilities, disease, services

Te Kāhui Tika Tangata | Human Rights Commission media release: 16th August 2023

The last of the COVID protections may have lifted, but disabled people still have the right to health and the right to support, says Kaihautū Tika Hauātanga Disability Rights Commissioner Prudence Walker.

“The restrictions may have gone but the impact of COVID will be with us for a long time.

Our attention must be focussed on removing barriers to healthcare, and to the disability support system, in response to the reality of the post-COVID protections world we now live in.”

The right to health includes access to both timely, accessible, and appropriate healthcare, which tāngata whaikaha Māori and disabled people face many barriers to.

“A largely hidden group of us who are at higher risk of experiencing the health impacts of COVID have needed to isolate to a greater extent than the general public over the last few years, and we will continue to need to do so.”

The high risks of COVID to many disabled people was clear in figures recently released by the Ministry of Health and Whaikaha Ministry of Disabled People. These showed disabled people receiving funded disability supports experienced significantly worse outcomes: being seven times more likely to die and 3.5 times more likely to be admitted to hospital.

Walker says that not only is COVID still present in our communities but repeat exposure to COVID also increases the risk of developing Long COVID.

Much is unknown about long-term prognosis for people with Long COVID, but some experts have called it a ‘mass disabling event’.

Many people with post-viral illnesses from COVID would meet the United Nation’s definition of a disabled person, including those who develop myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) or chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).

However, people with diagnoses such as chronic fatigue syndrome, alongside other rare disorders arising from COVID, are not eligible for government funded disability support, regardless of the severity of their condition.